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BBC’s The White Queen Episode Four Review

July 13, 2013

Spoiler alert! I will be discussing bits of the plot that if you have not read the book, or seen any of the four episodes of The White Queen, may spoil the story for you, you have been warned.

So far, we have seen the Earl of Warwick put King Edward IV on the throne, Edward choosing to marry Elizabeth for love, Warwick’s disapproval and therefore rebellion. Warwick’s flee to France, causing him to lose his grandson, Elizabeth’s new pregnancy, and Henry Tudor and his treasonous mother.

Warwick still fights on for the crown in episode four, we saw that he is desperate enough for it that he would risk his eldest daughter Isabel’s life and ultimately pay the price with his grandson, but this episode we see that he now gives over his second daughter for marriage. On arriving in France, Warwick meets with Margaret of Anjou, the deposed Henry VI’s wife in order to ally with her, of course, it was him who organised the end of the reign of Henry VI, so he has a lot of grovelling to do. He hands over his daughter for marriage to Margaret’s son, despite the fact that he is obviously a horrid person. Warwick makes to England, and heads to London to get Elizabeth, whom he calls a witch. Her two sons from her previous marriage come and warn a heavily pregnant Elizabeth that Warwick is coming, can she make it to sanctuary at Westminster Abbey in time, and what happens when the baby comes?  Back to Henry Tudor, who goes off to fight for Edward with his guardian, much to the disgust of his mother. He arrives home, shaken, he retells the story of how his guardian was beheaded, and then they came for him, but he said, with confidence, I am Henry Tudor, and his name saved him.

We now await the next episode, where we shall find out the fate of Edward, see the future of Henry Tudor and of course of the new son and hopeful heir to the throne of England.

This episode was another good one, it had action, emotion and everything you want from a drama, it also had me incredibly on edge when Elizabeth was escaping Warwick, even though I knew how the story goes. Something I always forget when watching these sorts of things is that they are actually real characters, some of the details are made up, not to a fantastical level, but to a level that is believable, but the deaths, lives, births and wars are all factual. It must have been a worrying time to live, not knowing which King to support in order not to lose one’s head.

The one thing I wanted to pick up on from this episode is the idea of sanctuary, I feel it wasn’t really explained well in the episode, not that it is the BBC’s duty to explain a historical concept. Many people have used sanctuary historically to hide from an almost certain death. They could go to a monastery or cathedral, and ask them for sanctuary, when within the walls, they were, theoretically, safe, sanctuary should not have been broken, although of course, it sometimes was. Elizabeth uses sanctuary to hide from Warwick, and, if my memory is right, will use it again later on in the series.

Another example of the use of sanctuary I wanted to mention was during the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381 in Bury St Edmunds. The townsmen of Bury St Edmunds rebelled against their lord, who was an ecclesiastical lord, the prior of the abbey of Bury St Edmunds, he fled, but was eventually capture and executed, as was another man who was deemed to be too friendly with the monastery. Two monks were also on the list, but managed to seek sanctuary in the monastery, therefore, they were safe, although it is surprising that the townsmen didn’t break sanctuary to get them.

I’m looking forward to Sunday’s episode, five, to see what happens to Elizabeth in sanctuary and Edward.

To read more on Elizabeth Woodville, I can only suggest reading The White Queen itself!

To read more on the Peasant’s Revolt, an informative but old read is by Charles Oman, The Great Revolt of 1381.


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